Some call it “pack journalism.” But no matter what it’s called, it’s becoming apparent that the general news media are hitching onto the “OSHA’s not doing its job” bandwagon.
It all started with the Las Vegas Sun’s series of articles after several construction workers died on big building projects along the city’s infamous strip. The Sun won a Pulitzer journalism prize for its reporting.
Judges gave the Public Service award to the Sun, “for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions.”
Now a West Virginia newspaper has leveled criticism at OSHA for the number of inspectors that cover the state in the wake of an employee death at a DuPont plant.
Carl Fish died one day after being exposed to phosgene from a leaking transfer hose at the plant in Bell, WV.
In the Sustained Outrage blog for The Charleston Gazette, Ken Ward Jr. writes, “12 OSHA officers must cover the entire state, inspecting power plants, steel mills, logging operations and all other workplaces except coal mines. Only nine of those 12 are full-time inspectors. It would take the OSHA office in Charleston nearly 100 years to inspect every workplace” in West Virginia.
Ward notes the last time the DuPont plant was inspected was five years ago.
Earlier this month, KCET-TV in California, through its So-Cal Connected program, aired a report based on an investigation of Cal-OSHA.
“Many of the inspectors who enforce California’s worker safety laws say the system is strained if not broken,” KCET’s report said. Specifically, the investigation calls into question the practice of significantly reducing the OSHA fines paid by companies found to be in violation of safety regulations.
The Sun’s report caught the attention of federal OSHA. Among its priorities is to check on the 26 state workplace safety agencies.
Do you agree with the media reporting of the last few years that state and federal OSHA programs are understaffed and largely ineffective? Let us know in the Comments Box below.
You can also take our poll on OSHA inspectors on our home page.